By Mark Carpenter
“I wasn’t going to call a timeout. The ball was in the hands of my best player.” Those were the words of Peebles head coach Josh Arey on Tuesday evening, after he and a very large contingent of red and white had seen one of the more memorable games in the program’s storied history, played out on the floor of the Ohio University Convocation Center. The district tournament semi-final contest between the Indians and the Trimble Tomcats came down to the last play and the last second with everyone on the edge of their seats, and resulted in a buzzer-beating jumper by Beau Justice that sent the Indians on to the district finals with a 49-47 victory.
After giving up a six-point lead with 1:21 to play, the Indians turned the ball over with 41 seconds left, allowing the Tomcats to hold for a potential game-winning shot. That strategy backfired when Justice, on the defensive end, made a big steal, took the ball the length of the floor and buried an 18-footer at the horn to send the Peebles faithful into a frenzy and send he and his fellow Indians to Saturday’s district championship game.
“I had seen Trimble play and been very impressed with them,” said Coach Arey. “They did what we expected them to do and I thought our kids did a tremendous job on defense and containing their transition.”
“Our fan support tonight was also tremendous as it always is.”
Though the Indians suffered through one of their worst shooting halves of the season (just 6 for 30 from the field), they managed to get a Justice jumper on their second possession, followed by a bucket inside by Cody Ireton, and an Eric Schmitz jumper to race out to a 6-0 advantage in the first quarter. The Tomcats were scoreless for over three minutes before baskets by Micah Couch and Dallas Slack pulled them back within two. Justice answered that Trimble run with a “3” but the Cats responded with a 7-0 spurt to take their first lead of the game at 11-9.
The Cats made the mistake of fouling Justice on a three-point attempt and he hit all three from the line to put the Indians back in front but Trimble got the final two baskets of the first period to lead 15-12 as it became quite obvious that this game was going to be a thriller from start to finish.
The second quarter scoring began with a long three by Trimble’s Jacob Koons as the Cats extended their lead to six, but another pair of Justice free throws made it 18-14. The Indians continued to struggle from the field, perhaps still getting accustomed to the Convo background, and the Cats took advantage with baskets by Wyatt Bragg and 6’6” Grant Clarke to open up a double digit lead at 24-14.
An Ireton three cut into that lead but Trimble answered with a bucket by Slack. The first half ended on a high note for the Indians as Brady Johnson grabbed an offensive board and put it back in with 20 seconds to go and the half ended with Peebles still on the short end of a 26-19 score.
Rather interesting was that the halftime break was quite short for the Tomcats as they were back on the floor with nearly seven minutes left in the break. It may or may not have had an effect, but it was the Indians who began the third period with a 7-0 run, perhaps the most crucial three minutes of the game. A steal and bucket by Justice, two Schmitz free throws, and an Ireton trey tied the game at 26 with 5:15 left in the third. Trimble did not score for almost four minutes, getting on the board on back to back possessions to retake a four-point lead.
Back came the Indians with a 7-2 run that began with an old-fashioned three-point play from Zach Arrasmith. Being the intelligent player that he is and seeing that his outside shots weren’t falling, Justice decided to take the game to the Cats and two nice drives to the rim and acrobatic scoop shots put the Indians back on top 33-32.
Trimble answered with a Bragg three-pointer but the period ended with a Scout Kremin bucket for Peebles off an out-of-bounds play and after three quarters of play, the two teams were right where they started, all even, 35-35 with a deciding eight minutes or maybe more to come.
The fourth stanza began with the Cats turning a Peebles turnover into a score to take the lead but the Indians tying it back up again on a Schmitz basket with 6:45 to play. A clutch basket from the left block by Tyler Ryan over the taller Clarke and another Justice drive put Peebles back in front at 41-39 with 5:14 to go. A Bragg bucket for Trimble tied the game but Justice continued to score at will, getting two baskets and two free throws in a personal 6-0 run and with 1:21 to play, it was looking real good for the squad from Adams County as they led 47-41.
Trimble got two free throws from Konner Standley and then began the process of fouling to put the Indians on the line, smothering Justice so he could not get his hands on the ball and be the one at the line, where he is nearly a 90% shooter. With just over a minute left, Ryan was fouled but missed the front end of the one and one and Trimble quickly cut the Peebles lead to just two with a basket by Standley and then quickly fouled Arrasmith with 1:00 showing on the clock. The Peebles junior guard also missed the front end of the bonus, Trimble rebounded, and within seconds the game was tied on a basket by Koons.
It looked like a sure win was slipping away from the Indians when the ball was finally inbounded to Justice and he was hounded by three Tomcat defenders as he headed up the sideline, but stepped on the out of bounds line, turning the ball back over to Trimble with 41.4 seconds to play.
The Cats decided to hold for the last shot and as the tension built in all corners the arena, they moved the ball around until there were under 10 seconds left and then they made a huge mistake. The Trimble ball handler left the ball in front of Justice, who slapped it away, then chased down the loose ball, got control, and started up court as the crowd began to rise in anticipation of what they might see.
The Peebles sharpshooter headed down the left side of the floor, maneuvered himself around four Trimble defenders who didn’t want to commit a foul, elevated from about 18-feet away, and as the final horn sounded, the shot swished through the net, game over, and the Indians and their fans celebrated a dramatic win that sent them to the district championship game back at the Convo on Saturday.
“I was thinking they would probably get off a shot, miss it, and we’d go to overtime,” said Justice in the locker room after the game. “I wanted overtime because I thought we could win. They left the ball in front of me, I got it, and took off, thinking ‘we have to score’. I shot it and it went in.”
Justice led the Indian attack with 26 points, 16 of those coming in the second half and turned that into a double double night with a team-high 13 rebounds. Cody Ireton added 8, including a pair of big three-pointers, and Eric Schmitz added 6. Tyler Ryan scored just 2, but played huge in the paint, hauling in 6 rebounds and muscling up with the Trimble big men.
“Beau is coming up the court and I look up and see 4 seconds on the clock and there’s no way I’m going to get a timeout and we’re either going to the house or going to overtime,” said Arey. “He’s bulldog, a fighter. If I got guarded the way he did, I would probably have been ejected from five games. He’s just so level-headed and does such a great job firing up his teammates.”
The Tomcats were led in scoring by 14 points from senior Wyatt Bragg and 8 from sophomore Justice Jenkins.
That shot propelled the Indians into the Division IV district championship game at noon on Saturday. Peebles will face the South Gallia Rebels, who advanced by defeating Portsmouth Notre Dame 50-43 in the nightcap on Tuesday. The winner of that contest will move on to the Division IV Regional Tournament and a March 11 matchup with Columbus Africentric.
Mark Carpenter can be reached at 937-544-2391 or on Twitter @adamscosports.
15 11 9 12 —47
12 7 16 14—49
Trimble (47): Standley 2 2-3 6, Bragg 6 0-0 14, Slack 2 0-0 4, Jenkins 4 0-0 8, Couch 2 0-0 4, Clarke 2 0-0 4,
Koons 3 0-0 7, Team 20 2-3 47.
Peebles (49): Arrasmith 1 1-2 3, Justice 9 7-8 26, E. Schmitz 2 2-2 6, Ireton 3 0-0 8, Kremin 1 0-1 2, Johnson 1 0-0 2,
Ryan 1 0-1 2, Team 18 10-17 49.
Three-Point Goals: Trimble- Bragg 2
Peebles- Justice 1, Ireton 2